Allied Health Rural Generalist Workforce and Education Scheme

Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) has successfully secured $140,179 in funding for the Attract, Connect, Stay (ACS) Project through the Enhancing Country Health Outcomes (ECHO) grant program was managed by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR). This 2-year project aimed to improve health outcomes for people in small rural communities (pop. less than 10,000) in NSW and Victoria. The full Press Release published when the project was announced is attached here.

ACS is an evidence-based, place-informed rural health workforce solution. It is underpinned by 10 years of rural health workforce research and brought to life through translation of this evidence modelled on an existing, proven program operating in Marathon, Ontario Canada. The Marathon model mobilises the gifts, knowledge, and practical skills of residents, community groups and local organisations to better attract and retain health workforce professionals through the establishment of a locally funded, locally recruited and locally managed Health Workforce Recruiter Connector (HWRC) position.

The implementation and oversight of the project was led by Dr. Cath Cosgrave (Cath Cosgrave Consulting / The University of New England) alongside Dr. Christina Malatzky (Queensland University of Technology), Dr. Susan Waller (Monash University) & Dr. Rosalie Boyce (Barwon Health and South West Healthcare / Rosalie Boyce Consulting) and was administered by Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH).

Based on a synthesis of all information gathered, it was concluded that the ACS project fully achieved three of five of its goals and partially achieved the remaining two. ACS enabled real-time development and piloting of an evidence-informed Blueprint in co-design with a single rural community in Australia.

The evaluation report describes the success and impacts of the ACS project and solution and the key mechanisms that contributed to these.

Through managing and executing the AHRGWES project, SARRAH supported private and non-government organisations across rural and remote Australia to implement allied health rural generalist training positions, commencing their workforce development journey on the AHRG Pathway. This project built on the formative work of QLD Health, and subsequent AHRG Pathway implementation in other state health jurisdictions.

Internal reports

The project funding and schedule concluded June 30, 2021. An internal project closure report has been finalised. Summary recommendations are found in Table 1 below.

The following internal report is available:

Project Closure Report: Allied Health Rural Generalist Workforce and Employment Scheme [Executive Summary]

For a full copy of the the Project Closure Report: Allied Health Rural Generalist Workforce and Employment Scheme please email [email protected]

Stakeholder Engagement
Distribution of training positions during AHRGWES implementation was not evenly spread across jurisdictions and sectors. It is unclear whether this is because of poor stakeholder engagement and/or lack of organisation ‘readiness’ or demand for this workforce initiative
The project team recommends that future project iterations consider whether full jurisdiction and sector representation is the appropriate approach when assessing, prioritising and allocating training positionsand that promotional and marketing strategies are optimised to reach all sectors and jurisdictions.
Project Management
The project management team found several necessary elements of AHRGWES implementation to be resource intensive, particularly with regards to assessing and allocating training positions (and the associated impacts on commencement and completion), onboarding and supporting organisations and trainees and managing reallocations of positions and resources for training positions that do not complete.
The project team recommends that future project iterations adopt internal strategies and processes that facilitate early uptake of participantsas well as take steps to optimise the organisation and trainee understanding of the AHRG Pathway to smooth the on-boarding process and set clear expectations of all levels of participating organisations.
AHRG Pathway Level
The project team made several observations regarding the two available AHRG Pathways. A preference of trainees and organisations toward the Level 2 pathway was observed, however due to cohort size and limited pathway completion at project close, these observations are viewed with caution. Additionally the project team observed issues with timing for trainees undertaking the pathway. Those doing the Level 1 pathway found it unrealistic to complete the pathway within the suggested 12 months. Some of those doing the Level 2 pathway found balancing work and other commitments difficult. The independent external evaluation may discover more about these issues
The project team recommend that future projects implementing the AHRG pathway ensure that budget builds and deliverables allow flexibility for a preference for either pathway level depending on the relevant demand. Additionally future program guidelines review the current timelines and rules for completion to make these more achievable for trainees undertaking the pathway.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The independent external evaluation will add depth and detail to this project closure report contributing to the evidence for the AHRG Pathway. It is anticipated that lessons learned and recommendations will become more evident as the evaluation continues.
The project team has observed areas of interest for further investigation that would potentially add depth to the evidence base. These areas include understanding the market drivers for AHRG Pathway demandfactors that influence trainees that do not commence or withdrawal from the pathwayother potential measures or proxy measures of rural allied health servicesand the attitudes of the allied health sector towards allied health rural generalism.